I felt envious reading my blogging colleague caowrites describe her old family home. I too spent time in an old house this weekend, but it was far less relaxing experience. It’s an old nineteenth century rubble-stone cottage in the west of Ireland that I’m in the process of renovating. Right now that means undoing a lot of the bad “modernising” that it has endured through the years. Last Sunday was spent stripping away old wiring, plumbing and knocking off plaster to get back to the original stone walls.
There’s something quite therapeutic about stripping the layers back to reveal the beautiful stonework – probably the closest I’ll ever get to being a sculptor – and I’m really getting a sense of the house’s history. Beneath the modern plasterwork are wafers of different coloured paintwork applied through the years, or even an old fireplace. The stonework will only be revealed for a while, though. In order to make the cottage as eco-friendly as possible, I’m going to insulate to a high level, so the walls will need a thick coat of lime plaster mixed with hemp. It’s a old method of insulation that is necessary because of the original stonework.
At this point I’d expect to have eked out a metaphor that I’d apply to my studies. There could be stripping back theoretical concepts to their core principle, un-cluttering your mind and studying with a clear head or chiselling away at tricky subjects until you fully understand. Maybe some other time.
I know that the renovation is a medium-term project, a bit like my studies. The one thing that gets me through the grunting hard labour is how I imagine it will be when it’s finished: a comfortable bolt-hole that will offer a respite from city life and space for reading and relaxing with my family. Luckily I have mapped out a step-by-step plan that will be completed as time allows. In some way it’s going to be a parallel process to getting my degree. A cumulative process of steadily achieving goals with a wonderful reward on completion.